Holiday retail sales rise 5.5 percent, way above forecast

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Sales at clothing stores dropped 0.3 percent, while online retailers' sales gained 1.2 percent.

December retail sales - a measure of consumer spending at stores, restaurants and websites - rose 4.2 percent, the most in three years, the Commerce report concluded, while e-commerce sales rose 1.2 percent from November and 12.7 percent from the prior December.

Data on retail sales can be volatile from month to month, aren't adjusted for inflation and don't include spending on most services such as housing and health care.

Holiday retail sales rise 5.5 percent, way above forecast

Over the holidays, the strongest performers were building material and supply stores (8.1 percent growth ), furniture (7.5 percent growth) and electronics (6.7 percent growth).

Retail trade sales last month were up 0.3% from November and rose 5.6% from December 2016, the U.S. Department of Commerce said on Friday.

Core retail sales - excluding automobiles and parts - grew 0.4%. Consumer spending has continued to rise, supported by factors including low unemployment and rising consumer confidence, though the rate of growth has eased in recent years.

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For the whole 2017, retail sales jumped 4.2 percent from 2016, the strongest growth since 2014. Nonstore Retailers were up 12.7% from December 2016, while Building Materials and Garden Equipment and Supplies Dealers were up 9.9% from past year.

With the optimistic outlook for consumer spending, Fed officials expected the US economy to grow 2.5 percent this year, an upgrade of 2.1 percent from their forecasts in September last year.

Its analysis released Wednesday showed that overall spending among Philly shoppers in stores grew 4 percent this last holiday season from previous year.

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"We see a very healthy consumer, and we see a lot of signs of the strength of that consumer", Mr. Andrus said.

As a result, certain retail segments were particularly strong in December.

Overall December sales - including automobiles, gasoline and restaurants - were up 5.5 percent from December 2016.

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Every retail category except for sporting goods showed gains during the final two months of the year, according to the NRF. Fluctuations in sales often reflect changes in gas prices, not volume. Ellison predicted a rebound in apparel and other categories.

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